Extract from a letter from William Molyneux to Edmond Halley (of Halley’s Comet fame), 6 April 1685, about goings on at the Dublin Philosophical Society:
“[S]everal of our meetings have been employed by a young mathematical female in this place, bred up by one Mr Tollet, a teacher of mathematics, and a most excellent learned man in that kind. The child is not yet eleven, and yet she hath given sufficient proofs of her learning in arithmetic, the most abstruse parts, algebra, geometry, trigonometry plane and spherical, the doctrine of the globes, chronology, and on the violin plays anything almost at sight.”
The ‘Mr Tollet’ referred to is the mathematician George Tollet, who later moved to England. The girl is too old to be one of Tollet’s daughters by his wife Elizabeth Oakes. Perhaps she was his natural daughter, or maybe someone else’s child whom he took in and trained. No subsequent record of her subsists. The letter does go on to say that although very good at all these learned things, she was no more interested in them than other children of her age. An unwilling pupil, perhaps?
I wonder what happened to her. Possibly, she died. Or got fed up of being exhibited to bewigged scientific gentlemen like a prize pig at an agricultural fair, valued only for her brains and not for her tender and loving little heart? Or tired of the caged tedium of constant study, with a whole world outside to explore, and the sum of people in it a far more interesting equation than anything the grey-slated world of algebra could conjure up?
Or simply discovered boys?